Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) called for a public hearing on the revocation of Chuck E. Cheese’s business license during the last village board meeting citing the protection of the residents, patron safety, and the village’s reputation as a safe place to shop and be entertained.
Trustee Terry Vorderer opened the discussion on Chuck E. Cheese, which has been a subject of interest to local media outlets as well as Chicago television and radio news programs. Mayor Sandra Bury appeared on camera with NBC 5 and on the air with WLS 890 AM morning radio hosts to discuss problems that she claims have resulted in over forty 9-1-1 calls this year already, surpassing last year’s total for police calls to the establishment.
Vorderer said that he, Village Manager Larry Deetjen, Mayor Sandra Bury and “other representatives of the village” met with “the President of Chuck E. Cheese” on a recent Saturday. Sources within Chuck E. Cheese’s company have confirmed that village attorney, Patrick Connelly, was also present at the meeting.
Vorderer said that the meeting was called to discuss issues that were important for a safe community and safe business environment. Vorderer said that the two hour meeting resulted in the company agreeing to complete another security analysis. The Oak Lawn Leaf reported yesterday on that analysis, which resulted in seven recommendations for enhancing security and some disagreement on the seriousness of the problem.
Vorderer said that he has “used” the children’s entertainment establishment on occasion and it is a well run place.
Streit spoke after Vorderer and said that while the Mayor has claimed that there were over 40 incidents in both 2015 and over forty more through 9 months in 2016, he had not been given those police reports with the exception of a handful. Streit said he “agreed with Mayor (Bury’s) identification of what’s at stake at Chuck E. Cheese, namely the safety of the children and their families.”
Streit said that he believes the management of the restaurant has tried to be a responsible neighbor “but I believe we have reached the stage after four years of what continues to be a deteriorating situation where we need to be more proactive in protecting the patrons, the residents and the reputation of the Village of Oak Lawn as a place that offers a safe environment for families to shop and be entertained”.
Streit said, “I agree with the Mayor in her identification of the issue but I am concerned about the lack of leadership in taking the necessary action to resolve it. Four years of 9-1-1 calls is enough.” He added, “I would say that it is time to serve them notice that we are seeking to revoke their business license for cause”.
Vorderer responded to the statement saying, “after being elected three years ago I was well aware of problems at Chuck E. Cheese…” He said that one of his first missions after being elected was to have a meeting with Chuck E. Cheese where he discussed many ideas with the management on improving security at the facility. He said the company responded to the ideas, including clearing site lines and lowering the occupancy. He said that both parties “moved on”.
However, a second incident at the location resulted in a second Vorderer led meeting, in which the village insisted on the company hiring off duty Oak Lawn police officers as security for the place. Chuck E. Cheese pays two to three officers for security.
Vorderer said “we are not turning a blind eye” to the issues. He said that while he agrees that the board has the authority to revoke the license, he countered that the third meeting, which was recently held, should result in more changes.
Vorderer did say if the concerns are not addressed, he stands with Streit on discussions of revoking the license.
Vorderer became defensive in his remarks and said that Chuck E. Cheese has had “these kind of incidents since its earliest days”. He said the store has been there since 1984. Trustee Michael Carberry said he is interested in seeing the Chuck E. Cheese security report that Vorderer had in his possession but had not shared with the board.
Trustee Tim Desmond and Mayor Sandra Bury also acted defensively to Streit’s comments bringing up an issue from 2012, prior to their election, and noting that the establishment didn’t lose its license at that time. Bury and her allies ran in 2013 on a platform that criticized former Mayor Dave Heilmann stating that he alone had the power to take the establishment’s liquor license, which was voluntarily surrendered in 2014. Trustee Alex Olejniczak also praised Vorderer and Bury for their leadership on the Chuck E. Cheese issue.
Streit said that Desmond’s comments and the Mayor’s comments prove his point. The village, for over four years, has searched for answers and worked with the company to improve the security. “All I was pointing out is that what is being done isn’t working if we have over forty 9-1-1 calls in 2015 and that many already this year,” said Streit. He added, “If the Mayor is telling the truth about all these calls, then we have a duty to take action.”
In the end, no action was taken and Chuck E. Cheese is expected to attend the October 25th Village Board Meeting.